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Sen. Marco Rubio: Immigration reform bill is almost "ready to go"

There were concerns that Rubio may walk away from negotiations after conservative critics accused him of being manipulated by Democrats.

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Republican Senator Marco Rubio. (AFP/Getty Images)

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said on Sunday that 95 percent of the comprehensive immigration reform bill is "ready to go" but he is still pushing for more border security measures.

Rubio dismissed concerns from conservative critics that he's been too soft on immigration and was manipulated by Democrats in the group steering the legislation.

"I think it's an excellent starting point, and I think 95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go," he told ABC's This Week about the bill.

"But there are elements that need to be improved."

There were concerns that Rubio, a member of the 'Gang of Eight' group which drafted the legislation, could walk away from the negotiations over the criticism.

Rubio deflected those concerns on Sunday. 

"I recognize there is a division among conservatives about [immigration reform.] I respect other people's views on it," Rubio added.

"I understand why they are frustrated by it. I just hope people understand that the reason why I've undertaken this is because this is a major problem that's hurting our country."

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The Florida lawmaker said he wanted the final version of the bill to include strong measures on border security to prevent future waves of illegal immigration.

"If we do that, this bill will have strong bipartisan support," Rubio said.

"If we fail, we're going to keep trying, because at the end of the day, the only way we're going to pass an immigration reform law out of the House and Senate so the president can sign it is, that it has real border security measures within it."

The bill currently being debated in the Senate would provide a 13-year path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. A provision to include immigration benefits for same-sex partners was withdrawn after a public battle between conservatives and liberals.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, another Republican member of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight"  was upbeat Sunday about its prospects for passage.

"I think we are going to get plus 70 votes" in the Senate, said Graham.

The South Carolina lawmaker predicted a "political breakthrough, that Congress is going to pass immigration reform."

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/130616/sen-marco-rubio-immigration-reform-bill-almost-r